By Stuart Williams and Dilay Gundogan ,AFP
ISTANBUL — Ten people, mostly foreigners, were killed on Tuesday when a Syrian suicide bomber blew himself up in Istanbul’s busiest tourist district, in the latest deadly attack to hit the country.
Images showed several mutilated corpses lying on the ground close to the iconic Ottoman-era Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet, a district which is home to Istanbul’s biggest concentration of historic monuments. “I strongly condemn the terror attack which was carried out by a suicide bomber of Syrian origin,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in the capital Ankara. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said most of the dead were foreigners, but did not give details on their nationality. He identified the bomber as a Syrian national born in 1988. Speaking in Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that German nationals were “probably” among the victims.
“We don’t have all the information yet … but we fear that German citizens could be and probably are also among the victims and injured,” she told reporters. Shortly after the blast, Germany had warned its nationals to avoid tourist sites in Istanbul, a city of 14 million that has been hit several times by deadly attacks. Turkey’s Dogan news agency said nine Germans and two Peruvians were among the wounded.
Police and ambulances raced to the scene, throwing up a tight security cordon around the area as helicopters hovered overhead, and crowds of worried locals and tourists clamored to find out what had happened, an AFP correspondent said. The explosion took place at around 0820 GMT by the Obelisk of Theodosius, a monument from ancient Egypt which was re-erected by the Roman Emperor Theodosius and is one of the city’s most eye-catching monuments.
It stands just outside the Blue Mosque.
Turkey has been on high alert after a series of attacks blamed on the Islamic State jihadist group including a double suicide bombing in October in Ankara that killed 103 people.